What is This Survey and Why is it Important to Fill Out?
It is my sincere hope that many of you who are reading this looked into what research that has been done about the field of Wilderness Therapy (WT), and the methods and outcomes, in an attempt to determine if this would benefit your child. In doing so, you likely came across the terms Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) and National Alliance of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP). Partially I hope this so that you are more confident and educated consumers, and partially so that your mind may have been put at ease about your decision.
The news within the research is good. In multiple studies through a partnership between OBH and the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Wilderness Therapy has been shown to be both more effective and cheaper long-term for adolescents than treatment as usual (TAU), such as intensive outpatient programs, therapy in the home environment, and partial hospitalization programs. In an article published on the UNH website, Dr. Mike Gass said about the current research initiative, “This is the last piece of the puzzle that could finally tip the scales to help families struggling to afford treatment for their kids. It offers evidence to insurance companies that it is more cost effective to provide coverage for outdoor behavioral therapy than current forms of treatment. We already know that adolescents that go through OBH programs show almost three times more improvement after one year. Now we can say that it is also two times less expensive.”
Of course, one of the traditional hindrances for broader access to WT is the cost, and the reluctance of insurance companies to cover/reimburse the upfront expenditure of families who decide to utilize this intervention. The best way to address this is to create a body of evidence that helps these providers accept WT as an evidence-based intervention, such as 12-step-based substance abuse programs, and methodologies like cognitive or dialectical behavior therapy. These get covered because of the body of evidence that supports them. As an accredited member of OBH, Evoke participates in research in the form of interval-based surveys. These surveys are part of a research initiative funded by a grant of $2.97 million to UNH specifically to study the efficacy of WT in treating depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. These surveys will come to you at intake, discharge, and six- and 12-months post discharge. They are intended to measure, by self-report of both client and primary caregivers, the long-term efficacy of wilderness treatment. Again, from Dr. Gass in a UNH media release: “Our hope with this controlled randomized study is to uncover definitive answers about the benefits of wilderness therapy from a behavioral, social and cost point of view.”
Here’s where you come in. All of the surveys you receive exist as one data point within the study. Missing any one of them invalidates the set. Most families do well with the intake, discharge, and even the six-month post. It is the one-year post survey, though, that is our proverbial “white whale.” This is my entreaty to you; please take the time to fill out these surveys completely and honestly. This helps us improve as a program, as an industry, and helps you and future parents get more fair and equitable treatment from insurance companies.